No. 1 Azure request: Make it cheaper for smaller apps and services

No. 1 Azure request: Make it cheaper for smaller apps and services

Summary: Microsoft is taking votes via a new Azure forum ("My Great Windows Azure Idea") as to what kinds of new features and functionality developers and users would like to see in Azure, Microsoft's cloud platform. The No. 1 suggestion so far: "Make it less expensive to run my very small service on Windows Azure."

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Microsoft is taking votes via a new Azure forum ("My Great Windows Azure Idea") as to what kinds of new features and functionality developers and users would like to see in Azure, Microsoft's cloud platform.

The No. 1 suggestion so far: "Make it less expensive to run my very small service on Windows Azure." The No. 2 suggestion, in terms of votes, is also pricing related; It's continue to offer Azure free to developers. (Microsoft is going to begin charging customers and developers for Azure starting February 1, 2010.)

Microsoft has been emphasizing the savings developers and customers can achieve by using Microsoft servers and infrastructure to run their apps and services. That said, not every app or service could or should be cloud-hostable. Certain legacy applications may be too costly to move to the cloud. Others include data that customers deem as too sensitive or compliancy-laden to be moved there.

Microsoft outlined its pricing plans for Azure in July 2009. Compute time is priced at 12 cents/hour, storage at 15 cents per GB stored and storage transactions at 1 cent per 10K. Azure isn't just a hosting service, however; it was built to be more of a full-fledged development and deployment environment and includes database, middleware and management components, unlike ISP hosting platforms. Many of those additional components, like SQL Azure and AppFabric elements, come at an additional cost.

A number of the posters on the new Azure voting forum said they'd be more interested in trying Azure if Microsoft offered a pricing tier for those interested in experimenting with the technology.

Poster Daniel Chambers was in this camp. He commented:

"(W)hen I saw that Compute Time is measured not in CPU time but the time your site is running (ie real time!) I realised that Azure is ridiculously and prohibitively expensive when compared to shared hosting.

"This doesn't make a lot of sense to me, considering the spirit that Azure seems to be in: pay for what you use. My website would use next to no resources (CPU, data space, bandwidth), so I would have expected that it would cost me very little to host, yet the pricing means that I would have to pay through nose for it!"

Tech writer Tim Anderson recently made the same point: Azure is too expensive for small apps. Anderson (and others) have noted that it's hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison between Microsoft's Azure pricing and that of its cloud competitors or other hosting providers because each vendor's pricing scheme emphasizes different deliverables. But Anderson went on to say:

"A cheap Windows plan with a commodity ISP will cost less than either Amazon EC2 or Azure, but it is worth less, because you don’t get a complete VM as with Amazon, or a managed platform as with Azure, or the scalability of either platform. The point though is that by cutting out smaller businesses, and making small apps excessively expensive for customers of any size – even enterprises run small apps – Azure is creating a significant deterrent to adoption and will lose out to its rivals\."

One commentor on the Azure forum suggested Microsoft add some new pricing tiers and offerings to its line-up. Jouni Heikniemi offered a detailed proposal for a "Mini-Azure" that would offer developers fewer capabilities for a lower price. Heikniemi explained in a blog post:

"The current (Azure) $0.12/hour pricing model (~$86/month) is too expensive for small sites. Hosted LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL/PHP) stack offerings are available at a few bucks a month, and that’s a hard price tag to beat."

Heikniemi came up with some interesting new Azure SKUs he said he'd like to see, including a Windows Azure Express bundle for $10 per month and a Windows Azure Compute Small Business Edition, which would allow a processing core to be shared among several sites.

Topics: Microsoft, Software Development

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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11 comments
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  • I agree, leaves out small or startup companies

    I was so excited to use Azure but most of my work
    is for start up companies. The Pay As You Use plan
    sounded perfect as I thought it would grow with
    the company but now I see that isn't really the
    case. Too bad, could have been so perfect
    incendy
  • Azure is a dead horse.

    Hmm, where do the great new ideas come from? Independants and small start ups. Can they afford this? No, not in any way.

    Microsoft has never and will never understand small business.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • TRUST NO ONE!!!!

      Just as an interesting business comment....

      When I started my SaaS we pulled a T1 line into our office.
      This was not cheep 9 years ago.
      For me, as the CEO, it was merely the "Cost of Doing Business".
      To say that $ where tight, would be the vast under statement of a life time.

      We now have dedicated banks of servers in CA (PEER 1) and backup in FL (T3).

      We are now a 1/4 Billion $ a year SaaS business.

      After 36 years of software development and management...
      My advice is, spend a little money, to make money!

      Avoid the Cloud at ALL COST!
      Dragon_z
  • Every developer knows, partner with MS, get screwd.

    Sorry but the fact is that if you partner with Microsoft in anyway you WILL get screwed in the end. If nothing else, MS is going to be watching very closely at what sells and will copy it in a heartbeat and tell users they are "innovating".

    Sure, let me put my code on your server so you can see the code, track my sales, and know who all my customers are. Um, NO THANKS!
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Uhhhmmmm .... what?

      You clearly haven't noticed the colossal industry that has built itself around Microsoft and its products. Most ISV's, IHV's and OEM's are Microsoft partners and benefit enormously from their relationships.

      Even companies that compete with Microsoft or who Microsoft competes with remain firm partners. I know several companies who've seen their products sell MORE when Microsoft entered their market because MS' presence in the market gave credibility to the product space and to the companies offering good products in that space.

      Competition isn't always about eradication: It's about growing one's share of a market. If that market grows in the process, then all (effective) vendors benefit.
      de-void-21165590650301806002836337787023
  • Azure is Still-Born

    Sorry, but Microsoft don't get it. If they had launched a Cloud xRM to compete directly with Force.com, then it could have been interesting. Without pre-built business logic, Azure is just a deceptively expensive empty vessel. Force.com has nothing to fear from Azure.
    XceliantBear
    • Wrong product...

      It seems to me you don't get it - Azure has nothing to do with Salesforce, it is a more generic computing platform. MS has something to offer in the CRM-Space - it is called "CRM Online and to me it has an intersting advantage" - you can run either Online or Locally - or even Partner-Hosted - but you can use your developed customizations (to some point) on all of those platformsthe same way.
      Joschibaer
      • F-U-C-K THE CLOUD!!!

        I am SICK of people saying cloud THIS, cloud THAT! You will NEVER edit videos in your browser!!! You will have NO decent 3D games or ANYTHING. You have a word processor and a f-u-c-k-i-n-g music player! F-U-C-K the cloud!!! Even if it IS good for Linux, F-U-C-K THE CLOUD WITH A HOT IRON ROD!!!
        Edit: Sorry whoever I replied to, I intended to make a new post, but when you are seething with rage, your brain does not work too well.
        Subsentient
  • RE: No. 1 Azure request: Make it cheaper for smaller apps and services

    Not including pricing for small businesses and small apps represents a fundamental ignorance of basics of cloud computing. End Users and small businesses are going to be the core market in cloud adoption.

    Cloud computing as a basic concept has a lot of flaws still in it. Security, Cross Cloud compatibility, Support, Data Ownership, and data/service longevity are some important areas that have NOT been addressed very well in Cloud computing.

    Given the above, end users who don't really care about security or understand anything about security as well as any of the other concepts will adopt cloud services if they are cheap and marginally useful. They will pay a long term cost of course but most people really can't plan beyond next week so they won't realize that when their family photo database is destroyed because it was stored in a proprietary format on the cloud and their cloud provider goes out of business, they will lose all of their data.

    Anyway, end users, right or wrong will use cloud services.

    Small businesses will also use the cloud. Again small businesses will need cheap computing and they will be willing to sacrifice (sort of) long term viability for some easy short term gains.

    So Microsoft is shooting itself in the foot by not offering small business and end user pricing for it's products. These two groups of people will be on the cloud first whether it is a good long term idea or not.

    If the security, cross platform compatibility, etc is addressed then cloud computing will make sense for almost everyone.

    But just on a matter of principle, I would not want China hacking my cloud storage or applications/services. Even if they "did no harm", I would not be comfortable with this type of set up.
    Microsoft's services because they are on the cloud may be open to the same types of attacks that Google has suffered and Microsoft may just write it off as the cost of doing business in China for example.
    mr1972
  • RE: No. 1 Azure request: Make it cheaper for smaller apps and services

    You do realize that one could edit video locally, and then use the cloud to store the video files as well as multiplex the encoding to many servers, right?

    Seems to me like the cloud definitely has its place - and so does local processing. Best to use both where it makes sense... no reason to be religious about it.
    DankNet
  • RE: No. 1 Azure request: Make it cheaper for smaller apps and services

    You do realize that one could edit video locally, and then use the cloud to store the video files as well as multiplex the encoding to many servers, right?

    Seems to me like the cloud definitely has its place - and so does local processing. Best to use both where it makes sense... no reason to be religious about it.
    DankNet